Works Like A ChaRm

Laura and David Alima opened The Charmery in July. Their ice cream flavors are Baltimore-centric ... and a little Jewish, too.

Laura and David Alima opened The Charmery in July. Their ice cream flavors are Baltimore-centric … and a little Jewish, too. (Photo by David Stuck)

For Laura and David Alima, owners of The Charmery in Hampden, ice cream isn’t just a treat, it is destiny.
“I guess we were connected by desserts early on,” said David. “Because the first thing I ever did to try to impress [Laura] was I ate an entire chocolate cream pie.”

The pair, who married five years ago, met at Bel Air’s Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, where they were both counselors. Fifteen year later, they are the owners of a new thriving ice cream shop with a local twist.
Over the course of the past two months, the shop has made a name for itself with its funky Baltimore-inspired flavors. From Old Bay caramel to Berger cookies and cream and lemon stick, one look at the menu tells customers they are not in Kansas anymore.

“This shop could only exist in Baltimore,” David said. “You look at our walls, it’s all Baltimore artists, you look at our façade, it is Baltimore artists.”

He has even approached a few local bands and artists about working with him to develop new flavors.

“I want to work with people who don’t necessarily come from the culinary world,” David said, pointing out that he did not come from the culinary world either. “It would just be fun.”

From very early in their relationship, the couple had dreams of opening an ice cream shop.

“For 10 years, we had been talking about it as a business,” said Laura. “Everywhere we went, we would go to ice cream shops and be critical.”

They spent years taking notes on other parlors in other cities, making a record of what did and didn’t work at those shops, before they opened The Charmery.

“When you look at our costs, when you look at our flavors, it comes from many, many years and many notes,” said David.

For the Alimas, destiny was fulfilled on July 20, when they opened the doors of their store in a former pharmacy, which has special meaning, as both Laura’s and David’s grandfathers attended pharmacy school together in New Haven, Conn. They had noticed the vacant pharmacy before, located at the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 36th Street, but they were committed to another location in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until that location fell through that they noticed the pharmacy space had gone on the market.

“It’s one of those fated moments where you realize you’re exactly in the place you should be,” said Laura.
The Hampden neighborhood, the Alimas said, is a great place to open a business such as The Charmery. In an area known for small, independent businesses, the community has really welcomed them.

“There is such a camaraderie between the [business owners],” said Laura.

So far, the shop has partnered with Spro Coffee and Union Craft Brewing to create flavors infused with local ingredients, and it has plans to work with Paulie Gee’s pizza shop, when it opens its Hampden location, to create desserts for the restaurant.

Laura, a graduate of Cornell University’s hospitality management program, works full time as the marketing director at Chef’s Expressions catering company and spends evenings at the shop while David works at the shop full time. David describes Laura as the brains of the operation; he acts as more of a creative director of flavors. She has the hospitality experience, said David, and he has a love of ice cream experimentation.

“Without her, I just have ice cream,” he said.

Earlier this month, the shop featured a limited-edition caramel apple flavor in honor of Rosh Hashanah and a duckpin pale ale flavor for Labor Day. In the future, they plan to experiment with a charoset flavor for Passover.

“It’s our place. We can do whatever we want,” said David. “It’s so cool.”

 

Here’s the scoop

The Charmery featured ice cream in the flavor of apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah. What other flavors might the Jewish people expect this year?

Sukkot
Etrog sorbet (hurry in now!)

Tu B’shevat
Dates and honey ice cream

Chanukah
Sufganiyot ice cream (a donut base with a raspberry swirl)

Passover
Charoset (Manischewitz wine base with apples, dates and nuts swirled in)

Broad Shoulders

Dr. Leigh Vinocur

Dr. Leigh Vinocur

For victims of domestic violence in the Jewish community, CHANA: Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women offers an opportunity to escape a dangerous situation without having to make sacrifices when it comes to maintaining their religion.

Last year, the organization hosted its first speaker series, which featured talks from Jewish women involved in the arts. This year, Event Chair Maxine Seidman said CHANA wanted to again feature discussions led by interesting women who have learned to balance their professional, religious and family lives. This year’s series, which begins Oct. 1, will focus on women in legal, medical and technological professions.

Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedman, the first Orthodox Jewish woman appointed to the District Court of Maryland, will kick off the series.

Until her appointment to District Court, Friedman served as board chair of CHANA for three years. For Friedman, who spent much of her time helping victims of domestic violence navigate the legal system, her newest role has provided a chance to see things from a different vantage point.

“My experience at CHANA definitely gives me perspective on the bench that I would not have if I had not been involved in CHANA,” said Friedman.

As a judge, Friedman must make decisions involving landlord-tenant cases, motor vehicle violations, bail reviews, misdemeanors and some felonies. Sometimes it can be difficult not to bring home some of the emotion and stress, but, she said, it gets better with time.

“It’s definitely a job that requires broad shoulders and an ability to handle stress,” she said.

Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedman

Judge Karen “Chaya” Friedma (Photo by Shlomo Photography)

In addition to her role as a judge and mother of two sets of teenaged twins, Friedman is also involved with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore (of which CHANA is a program) and the Baltimore Jewish Council and its Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, is on the board of the Jacob and Hilda Bloustein Foundation for Jewish Education and sits on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum council.

“I’m always interested in new opportunities,” said Friedman, who also chairs the Interfaith Domestic Violence Initiative, which will aim to join all faiths together in an effort to create a dialogue about domestic violence over the weekend of Oct. 25 to 27 in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Rebbetzin Miriam Marwick, who was unavailable for comment, will discuss her career on Dec. 4 at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC.

Marwick is a researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses and the rebbetzin of Congregation Shomrei Emunah. Before she became a researcher at IDA, she and her husband were Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus educators at Johns Hopkins University.

Marwick holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and a teaching degree in Judaic studies from the Rika Breuer Teachers Seminary.

The series concludes April 1, when Dr. Leigh Vinocur, board certified emergency physician, national spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians and regular guest on “Dr. Oz,” “Nancy Grace” and CNN, speaks at
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Dr. Vinocur, another former chair of CHANA, began her involvement with the group in 1995, but her experience with domestic violence began even earlier, through her work as a doctor.

Her emergency room experience, she said, has allowed her a unique view of the world.

“Emergency medicine is kind of like a microcosm of society,” she said. “Gun violence and teen pregnancy and domestic violence, it all comes into the emergency room.”

Dr. Vinocur has utilized her experience in medicine to launch a career in broadcasting.

“When I write or talk about medical issues, I can sort of affect a broader change,” said Dr. Vinocur. “That’s why I like my adjunct career in medical broadcasting.”

Dr. Vinocur, who is still involved with CHANA, said she appreciates the work that CHANA has done to raise awareness in the community about an issue that some people may not have thought existed in the Jewish community.

“There was this bias that it doesn’t happen in the Jewish community, that women don’t get beaten up and abused,” she said. But that stereotype is unfounded. “I’ve seen doctors — women doctors — who have been beaten. It can happen to anybody,” she said.

CHANA was founded in 1995 by Brenda Brown Rever and a small group of advocates who noticed a lack of Jewish clients at the House of Ruth. Knowing abuse is just as prevalent in the Jewish community as it is in other communities, Board Chair Alyson Friedman said, Brenda approached The Associated with the idea of launching a program to help Jewish victims of abuse. What began as a simple hotline for abuse victims has, over the past 17 years, evolved into a multifaceted organization that offers services such as legal aid, emergency housing and one-on-one counseling, in addition to maintaining the hotline that serves as an entry point for much of CHANA’s clientele.

Journey Of Professional Jewish Women, the second annual CHANA speaker series, starts Oct. 1. To register, visit chanabaltimore.org/speakerseries2013.

‘I Will Beautify Him’

Tiferes Yisroel's new bais medrash.

Tiferes Yisroel’s new bais medrash.

In Judaism, there’s an obligation to offer a prayer, a personal thought or an intention upon entering a holy space.  The idea is that you must give in order to receive. In the case of a bais medrash or house of study, you must enter with something because you walk out with something.  You are transformed by the knowledge you encounter.  This was the heart of Rabbi Menachem Goldberger’s message at Tiferes Yisroel’s bais medrash dedication last Sunday.

“The idea was to make it a traditional space with an inviting atmosphere and warmth — there’s a lot of wood, a beautiful marble east wall, the idea is to make it an inviting place for people to spend time studying
the Torah,” said Rabbi Goldberger, a gentle man with soft eyes and a calming voice.

Rabbi Goldberger came to Baltimore in 1986 with his wife, Bracha, from Denver and began the shul with 12 families.  First, they prayed in the living room and dining room of a home. When they grew to 70 families, they rented a building. In 1993, they purchased and renovated the present building at 6201 Park Heights Ave., now with a congregation of 140 families.

Rabbi Goldberger described Tiferes Yisroel as “a very warm, community-oriented, Orthodox congregation with a certain spiritual flavor to it.  We try to share our lives together, study together and grow together.”

The bais medrash renovation inc-luded an expansion and beautification of the space.

“There is a verse in the Torah ‘zeh kayli v’anveyhu’.  It means, ‘this is my God and I will beautify Him.’ And the Talmud understands from that, that one is to beautify the mitzvos to make a dwelling place for God,” Rabbi Goldberger said.  “God dwells everywhere of course, but there are certain places where the concentration of his presence is stronger, so a shul, a bais medrash, a synagogue is one of those places, and we wanted it to therefore be fitting for the presence of Hashem in that room.”

The first thing you notice walking into the new bais medrash are the 12 high, small, narrow windows that let in sunlight from the east, with a view of trees and sky.

“It’s significant of the 12 tribes that became the full variegated texture of the Jewish people,” said Rebbetzin Goldberger.  “Each tribe had specific strengths that they contributed, and there’s an appreciation of the differences.  Those 12 windows remind us of the fabric of the Jewish people and the different strengths that we all have, and it’s interesting how it’s brought out with windows, which bring light in.  It’s always so important to appreciate the light of the differences. Sometimes we get caught on the differences … but of course the differences are illuminating because when we don’t have the same qualities as someone else, we’re in the dark about it.  And when someone introduces something new and we can appreciate the differences and work together, we’re enlightened by that.  So it’s very beautiful that it’s actually windows that are symbolizing that, which are portals of light.”

Glenna Ross, a congregant for 19 years, was also struck immediately by the 12 windows. She said, “The light comes in those windows from on high, you see the trees and the sky — it just opens it up. In the morning, I’m picturing the men coming in to pray the morning service, and the sun is coming through there; you’re really facing east, you really feel that. And then in afternoon when the sun is behind you, it’s reflecting on the trees you’re seeing outside the window.”

“There is a halacha (a Talmudic law),” Rabbi Goldberger explained during the dedication service, “when a person enters a shul or a bais medrash, that one should say a pasuk, a verse from the Torah. The reason is that it isn’t an ordinary room. We have to know where we are and honor the place properly. We can’t just walk into a holy place and receive. We walk into a holy place and the first thing we do is we give, we say something, we say a pasuk.  To take something from our own mind and our own life and our own heart, and say it.”

Goldberger went on to emphasize the transformation that occurs.

“We don’t come out the same person as the one who walked in. We have been affected and influenced by the holy environment of the shul, of the bais medrash. … It is a place where a Jewish person becomes great.  It’s a place where a person goes and immerses [himself or herself] in the Torah and becomes a great Jew.”

Rabbi Menachem Goldberger says a bais medrash is a place to connect with God.

Rabbi Menachem Goldberger says a bais medrash is a place to connect with God.

Rabbi Goldberger expressed deep gratitude to the congregation for its extensive involvement in the renovation, including the very small to the very large details.  He also gave a call to action: “I want to ask everyone to come and learn, to come and daven in the bais medrash. As holy as it is, we’ve got to be there, each person according to their abilities, every day or once a week — but we’ve got to be in there, because we as a group have to put something into that bais medrash, to make sure that we walk out with an additional kedusha.”

At the end of the dedication the whole congregation offered up music, song and dance as it marched a sefer Torah from the main sanctuary to upstairs to the new bais medrash, filling the room with its energy, gratitude and life.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/112467180″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

State Department Photo Lists ‘Palestine’ As Country

A photo posted on the U.S. State Department’s Instagram account on Tuesday lists “Palestine” as a country. The post occurred a day after the State Department unveiled its new Instagram account.

state department on instagram - sept 25, 2013“These social media accounts serve as a conduit for the U.S. Department of State to inform and engage publics around the world on foreign policy issues,” the State Department said in a special statement announcing the roll-out on Monday.

Secretary of State John Kerry even released a video message for the occasion. “Finally, the State Department is on Instagram, and we hope you’ll follow us around the world,” Kerry said.

Tuesday’s photo was only the fifth post on the Instagram account, and it was also shared on the State Department’s Facebook account. The post was about logistics ahead of the U.N. General Assembly taking place in New York, but it may have inadvertently revealed the terms used by State Department officials.

“Behind the scenes at #UNGA. We keep hundreds of flags on hand for meetings surrounding the 68th UN General Assembly. Is your flag in the photo?” reads the post, alongside a picture featuring the State Department’s inventory of flags. The flags are stacked in transparent plastic cases, with the name of each country written on the outside.

One of the cases has “Palestine” written on the outside, with the Palestinian flag clearly visible inside. An Israel Hayom reporter tried to contact the State Department on Tuesday through Twitter to get additional information on the picture, but as of Wednesday, no official State Department reaction was noted on Twitter or Instagram. A commeneor on the Instagram page asks, “State Department, have you noticed that one of the cases says Palestine? Is that official U.S. policy?”

 

Sen. Mikulski, Rep. Sarbanes Back Brown For Governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown received a pair of major endorsements in his bid for the governor’s office earlier this week when Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski made her support public on Sunday, Sept. 23 at a campaign rally in Silver Spring and Congressman John Sarbanes followed suit Monday with his own announcement.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Mikulski and Sarbanes are the most recent in a line of Brown endorsers that includes Governor Martin O’Malley, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Representative Elijah Cummings, Representative Donna Edwards, five Maryland state senators, nine state delegates, more than 100 elected officials from across Maryland and numerous organizations.

“I support Anthony Brown because I’ve worked with him for 15 years, watching up close as he solved the most pressing problems facing Maryland families and women. I see in Anthony the fantastic values I most admire – he’s honorable, he’s patriotic and he’s willing to tackle the tough issues,” Mikulski said in a statement at Silver Spring’s Civic Building at Veterans’ Plaza.

Citing Brown’s work with veterans, health care and job creation, Mikulski told rally attendees that Brown has her full support. “Anthony Brown can count on my support because Maryland can count on Anthony Brown,” she said.

In addition to being the longest-serving female in the history of the U.S. Congress, Mikulski, who grew up in East Baltimore, has a history of working closely with the Jewish community in Maryland. In 2006, she was awarded the Friend of the Synagogue Award by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America for her efforts in working to protect non-profit community institutions and her support of the Jewish community. In 2012, she, along with two other senators, introduced legislation that would support programs to assist aging Holocaust survivors.

Sarbanes - Sept. 24, 2013

Congressman John Sarbanes joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski Monday in supporting Anthony Brown for governor.

Sarbanes, who represents Maryland’s third district — an area that zigzags from Baltimore to Annapolis — pointed to Brown’s military service as an example of his values.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s service to our country in the U.S. Armed Forces — most recently in Iraq — has set a powerful example of sacrifice and commitment,” said Sarbanes in a statement, adding that Brown is a proven leader who will “help keep Maryland’s recovery on track.”

With the governor’s office’s recent announcement that the state’s job base has returned to pre-recession numbers, jobs will no doubt be a major point in Brown’s campaign.

Brown, who announced his candidacy in May, and running mate Ken Ulman, will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and state delegate Heather Mizeur, neither of whom have announced their running mates yet, in addition to Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, should he decide to run, in a June 24, 2014 democratic primary.

 

Locked In: Curfew Proposition On The Table For Baltimore City

The proposed changes to the teen curfew in the city of Baltimore don’t have much support in the city’s District 5 office.

Rikki Spector says that for Northwest Baltimore she does not see an advantage to a teen curfew.

Rikki Spector says that for Northwest Baltimore she does not see an advantage to a teen curfew.

“I don’t see any advantage,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle Spector, adding that she will learn more about the proposal when it reaches the hearing stage. “I’m not sure that it’s building a better mouse trap.”

If approved, the new curfew, proposed by City Councilman Brandon M. Scott earlier this month, will change the times at which young people must be off city streets to an age-based system. Children under the age of 14 would have to be indoors by 9 p.m. year-round. Teens between 14 and 16 would have to be in by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends and during summer. The maximum fine would also be increased to $500.

Curfews are not new to the city. Current law mandates that all people under the age of 17 may not be in any public place or establishment after midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays. It is also unlawful for any parent or guardian to knowingly permit his or her child to violate this curfew. Those minors in violation of the curfew may be detained by police, but not arrested, and no mark is made on their criminal record. Parents or guardians in violation of the subtitle may also receive a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for a maximum of 60 days, or sentenced to community service.

The proposed system would allow minors and their families to avoid a civil citation by attending a family-strengthening program.

In her district, District 5, The Northwest portion of the city, Spector said juvenile behavior has been a problem, but she is wary of an across-the-board fix to a complicated problem. With organizations like the Northwest Citizen’s Patrol and Shomrim, along with the local police precinct, Spector said the situation in her district is better than that of many other regions of the city.

“When we identify an area or situation, it really gets focused attention and resources,” she said.

Exceptions would remain in place for minors accompanied by a parent or returning home from work or a school or religious function.

Baltimore has gained national attention over the years for its murder rate, which rests at the 6th-highest in the U.S. among cities with populations of 100,000 people or more, according to FBI data. According to the city of Baltimore’s Comstat data, Baltimore Police have made 32,718 arrests in 2013 and of those, 2,487 (7.6 percent) were juveniles. While this figure is almost identical to the rate in cities like Washington, D.C., where 7.3 percent of 2012 arrests were juveniles, part of Councilman Scott’s motive behind his proposal is to help reduce truancy in the city schools and improve student performance, he told Nathan Sterner on 88.1 FM’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” last Tuesday.

Said Councilwoman Spector: “Police can’t be the answer to parents or those who are responsible for these children.”

Gansler Releases Twitter Video Before Announcement

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler released a gubernatorial campaign video via Twitter on Thursday, Sept. 19, ahead of his official announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

His challengers include Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and running mate Ken Ulman, who currently serves as Howard County Executive, and state delegate Heather Mizeur, a democrat who represents the 20th District in Montgomery County. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), who also served as Baltimore County’s executive from 1994 until 2002, is considering running.

While cyber security is a big issue for Gansler, his spokesman said this video, which is posted on YouTube, shows social media in a positive light.

“There’s an acknowledgement that social media and online platforms are incredibly valuable tools for getting out your message,” Bob Wheelock, Gansler’s spokeman, said.

The video is an effort to try to reach a broad audience and a younger audience, he said.

The video starts with a segment on Charm City Lacrosse, an organization started five years by Gansler as a program for inner-city youth who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to play the sport. A participant says “Coach Doug” was encouraging and helped instill confidence in the players.

The video feature testimonials from police, domestic violence advocates and elected officials. It talks about how Gansler changed the way the court system handles domestic violence, his record in marriage equality – he was the first elected official in Maryland to endorse it – cyber security and his going after predatory lenders. It ends with Gansler talking about helping working- and middle-class Marylanders, jobs and ensuring children have equal education opportunities.

“I think that’s what government’s supposed to do: to help create a level playing field so all people in Maryland will have access and the opportunity to excel or to reach their potential,” he says.

Seven Strategies For Managing Millenials

2013_bcom_lassonI recently presented a workshop to the Darrell D. Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center on Managing Millennials in the Workplace.

What is a millennial?

Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 — and they are entering the workforce.  As people are living longer and working longer, this has led to three or even four different generations represented in the workplace.  Each generation grew up in a societal context with its own historical events and technological limitations. Each has its own values and cultural influences.

The three other generational groups include traditionalists (born from 1922 to 1943), baby boomers (1946 to 1964) and Gen Xers (1965 to 1979).  This is not to say that everyone fits into a distinct category; there is some crossover.  In today’s diverse corporate culture, generational differences together with other factors present various challenges in communication and other areas.

I have made three basic observations regarding what distinguishes the millennial generation.

In terms of communication, much is driven by current technology. Communication is instant, quick, more frequent and short (the closer to 140 characters, the better). With that comes a fair degree of imprecision, including typos and grammar challenges, previously deemed unacceptable. Electronic and social media are the platform. There is even a preference toward digital rather than human interaction using channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Second is appearance: A more casual wardrobe is accepted now.

Finally, millennials tend not to stay in a job as long as was the case for previous cohorts.
Here are seven strategies for non-millennials to better interact at work with millennials:

> Stay relevant: Through your style and professional interests, make sure that you do not become obsolete. This means taking what is meaningful to millennials seriously.

> Stay connected: In many ways, this means staying connected using current technology and understanding a round-the-clock schedule.

> Learn new verbs and other vocabulary: Part of staying relevant is keeping up with jargon.  Words such “text,” “friend” and “Google” and “speaking with” are often just metaphors.

> Earn and maintain credibility: Part of the goal of the first three is to gain credibility, showing that you are in the game. Also, realize credibility is not always synonymous with respect, as defined by pre-millennial generations.

> Stay balanced: This is perhaps the trickiest, and it is where leveraging credibility comes in.  This will allow you to stick to your core values, workplace professionalism and quality of work while understanding that we live in a constantly changing reality.

> Be specific: In order to get work products to your standards, this might mean spelling things out to millennials (page lengths, margins) that might seem obvious to you.

> Give space but set boundaries: This might seem paradoxical and therefore challenging.  A successful workplace relationship between supervisor and employee will allow for initiative and creativity.  But at the same time, one needs to maintain the important distinction between roles in time and space.

Colorado Relief Effort

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has established an emergency relief fund to respond to the disastrous consequences of flooding in several Colorado communities. As of September 16, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management says that 17,494 homes are damaged and 1,502 homes are destroyed. An estimated 30-40 percent of the Jewish population in Boulder and surrounding areas has some level of damage to their homes.

Working in conjunction with the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), The Associated will send one-hundred percent of all donations directly to those affected, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

“One of our core values as a federation and as a community is tikkun olam, repairing the world,” said Marc B. Terrill, President of The Associated. “When we see another community suffering, we feel compelled to help in whatever way we can. Baltimore has a proud history of reaching out to those in need at home and abroad. It is who we are as Jews and as people.”

To donate to the Colorado Flood Relief Fund, visit associated.org or send a check to Colorado Flood Relief Fund, c/o The Associated, 101 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201.

 

Police Investigating Social Media ‘Predator’

092013_cybercrimeBaltimore County Police are investigating a complaint involving an unknown person who has engaged in sexually explicit video chats with two teenage girls.

The girls, who are students at St. Paul’s School for Girls and live in Reisterstown, reported the incidents to the school, who notified police on Friday, Sept. 13. Officers came to the school and spoke with the girls and their parents.

“A sexual predator has contacted over 50 of our upper-school students. These contacts and encounters are on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine,” Penny B. Evins, head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, said in a statement. “This person is calling himself J.P. Smith, Brian Pond, JPL42 and MatLax.”

According to police, one of the girls accepted a “friend” request in the summer of 2012, as well as video chat requests from the suspect. The second girl accepted the request last week. Both told police they viewed explicit messages from the suspect and entered chat rooms where he engaged them in explicit conversation.

Police are trying to identify the suspect, whose age is unknown, and determine if a crime was committed. Police said there is no indication that he made, or tried to make, physical contact with the girls. The suspect’s gender has not been confirmed by police.

Neighboring schools were also notified of the incident, and several emailed parents, including Carver Center for Arts and Technology Principal Karen Steele and Jemicy School Head of School Ben Shifrin. While it is unclear if, and which, students from other schools were contacted, Steele said Carver students could be among that group.

“As we all know, technology opens up wondrous possibilities and opportunities, but with that comes the potential for some to use it for less noble purposes,” Steele said in an email to parents. “Though we would all wish that our students could be completely shielded from the dangers of the world, we also know that is unrealistic.”

She called it a “teachable moment” and encouraged parents to discuss the incident with their students.

Nancy Aiken, director of CHANA (Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women), said it’s important that the students know they didn’t do anything wrong.

“I give the students credit primarily, but I also give the school credit that they were seen as a safe place for students to tell,” she said.

It’s important that parents and faculty respond to any kind of “grooming,” the process in which predators set the stage for a sexual encounter, as early as possible, Aiken said.

Police advise children not to accept “friend” requests from strangers, open email from strangers or engage in video chats with strangers. They also recommend that parents use social media privacy settings on their children’s social networks.

Evins’ letter had similar advice and also recommended students not post anything inappropriate on social
networks.

“Our most important job as educators and parents is keeping our children safe,” Evins said in an emailed statement.

According to the email from Jemicy School’s Shifrin, some students at Garrison Forest School reported being followed in Instagram and Snapchat by a user with the name EMJAMLI, who is commenting on their pictures.

In a separate incident, an unidentified woman tried to lure a Bais Yaakov middle school student into her car at a bus stop on Thursday, Sept. 12. The student ignored the woman, ran home and told her parents, who notified Shomrim and Baltimore County Police, according to an email from the school.

“We do not know if the person knew that this was a time when Bais Yaakov students would be getting off the bus on the way home or if they just happened to be there,” the email said. “Either way, parents are advised to direct their children how to respond if such a situation should ever arise in the future.”